Guidebooks: Cool Camping (England, Wales, Scotland & France)
Cool Camping Collection
Fantastic I though as I received my copies of the Cool Camping series (England, Wales, Scotland & France). A decent sounding set of guidebooks to the better campsites in the UK (and France). That however, was before I realised what the author’s definition of ‘Cool’ is. To me, a cool campsite would be one that was sensibly priced, located in a beautiful spot, with sufficient, but basic facilities, and above all, some good old fashioned charm. The guides are clearly aimed at a different reader, presumably from London, who wants more of a slick stay away from home, perhaps with a dash of quirkiness thrown in, and doesn’t mind paying for the privilege.
Let’s use some examples. I first turned to the Welsh guide. Having grown up in Snowdonia I know of a number of very good campsites which cost around £3 per person (with no additional charges), are in the mountains, by rivers, have toilets and wash rooms, but not much else – basically exactly where I would like to stay. I leafed through the pages looking for these sites. I found one pretty quickly – there it was, photographed nicely, sitting at the end of Llyn Gwynant in Snowdonia. However the description that accompanied it was for another site. Five minutes of leafing through the pages, examining the index and contents pages, and it was clear that a) one of my favourite campsites in the world was not in the book, but that they authors had made a massive error and put the wrong picture in next to another site. From that moment on I have been untrusting of the entire collection in case they have made similar errors. What of the site that was incorrectly associated with the aforementioned picture? It sounds nice, but seems that it is in the book primarily because of its proximity to a real ale pub. Another alarm bell rang. Sure it’s nice to be able to pop to the pub from the camp site, but in my opinion, this should not be a pre-requisite for it being a great site.
Another example from Wales. Whilst scanning the South Wales pages I discovered to my horror that Hill End campsite is included. Now Hill End is in a stunning location right at the end of the Gower Peninsula. But when we met friends there last summer I was disgusted to be charged £20 per night per tent. no other charges, but this fee was levied regardless of the size of the tent – I kid you not. Our group included a single guy in a peapod and a family of 5 in a behemoth of a tent with 4 rooms and they paid the same rate! On top of that there was a minimum 2-night-stay rule! When my friend in the peapod queried this Draconian rule and fee he was told to go elsewhere if he didn’t like it. Not, in my book, ‘cool’.
Quickly moving on to the Peak District where I now live I found that my favourite two sites were once again left out – North Lees in Hathersage, and one whose name escapes me, on the hillside above Castleton. Both are basic, cheap, and beautifully situated, but unfortunately don’t have Yurts, real ale or a safari park.
Given that the publishers also released Wild Swimming, a gorgeous guide to the rivers, estuaries and swim holes around the UK, I am extremely disappointed.
Reviewed by Matt Heason on behalf of planetFear